Good morning all!
Thank you to everyone who contacted me with such positive feedback about my first blog.
Firstly, I would like to give personal thanks to everyone working within the NHS, for their dedication, passion and hard work.I understand it is a stressful job anyway, without having to deal with pandemic on top of everything else. It doesn't stop there however. All of you who work in the care industry, whether at nursing homes or in people's own homes, are again putting yourselves at risk in order to help others - thank you. Everyone working within the food chain, from growers, pickers, drivers, all those working in shops and supermarkets - without you the rest of us would be unable to manage. And also to everyone else - all of you are playing an important role in trying to prevent the Covid 19 pandemic from swamping us. Thank you one and all.
That being said, let's get going with my second weekly blog.Again I hope you will find it useful.If you have anything that would be beneficial to others please feel free to contact me.Also if there are any specific topics that you would like me to cover, let me know.If you do find this useful and know anyone else who might too, please feel free to forward it to them.Also if you "like it" in Facebook, that would be brilliant.
As I said last time, they are not suitable for every dog, as it depends where they are currently in their rehabilitation.If you are in doubt at all, please contact me before doing something that is too much for your dog as it is at the moment.
So here goes:
Jane's Boredom Busters (BB) - episode 2
Last week I spoke about scatter feeding, which means the dog has to work for its food. I neglected to give options for those of you that raw feed or wet feed. There are two options that I can think of at the moment would be suitable for either of those. The first is using a slow feeder.There are numerous varieties available commercially and some of these are harder than others.You should be able to find them online, if your local pet food store does not sell them. The other option is to freeze food in Kong's or similar types of activity toys, this can keep your pet busy for quite some time, licking at it until it defrosts and they are able to eat it.There are lots of recipes available for these. Another version of this theme is doggy ice lollies or ice cubes. There are numerous possibilities of what you can use for these. Some popular ones are frozen yoghurt, frozen stock or bone broth (without onion), frozen cheese, frozen peanut butter, frozen sardines, frozen tuna, frozen chopped vegetables, frozen bananas and if you look on the Internet you will find lots of recipes for ice lollies for dogs and also for fillings for Kongs, or post your own! The 2 below look good – have a look at the websites where I found them.
Luckily we still have beautiful weather, that is unless you suffer from hay fever, and sadly I think that is starting to affect some of you.For those of you who have gardens, make the most of your time at home with your pets in the garden.If you happen to have a sandpit / paddling pool for children, these can be really popular.As a sandpit, many dogs enjoy digging in the sand, and you can hide things in there for them to find.As a paddling pool, they can be used for general fun and cooling off, which many of the dogs love.If you let them have toys in there, just remember to make sure that they don't intake too much water, because there is always the risk of secondary drowning (more information on this is available either on my website under news or on the Internet).
Another really fun game is to find kibble in a ball pond.This can be used as an occasional game or as a regular way of having a meal.You do not have to have a purpose made ball pond, you can use baby baths, multipurpose flexible tubs, laundry baskets, cardboard boxes etc.You can use ball pond balls as you would for children, or you can mix these with different sized and shaped balls so it can be a bit more challenging.Some dogs will want to kill and eat the balls, so be careful with those individuals!This can be done inside and outside so it doesn't matter what the weather is like.I have found this to be successful with paraplegic dogs too, as they can manoeuvre themselves within the ball pit, almost like swimming in balls, so the balls actually supporting their body weight partially.
You may at some point have seen someone in the high Street playing the find the ball under the cups game.You can do much the same with your dog.Have three upside down beakers and 1 treat, place the treat under a beaker with the dog watching, and slowly move them round to change their positions.The dog then has to find the right beaker, and get the treat.As it gets better at this can speed up the movement or increase the amount of beakers.
Another idea which can be really helpful for dogs going through rehabilitation, is a maze or labyrinth as used by Tellington TTouch practitioners.Using either bits of timber, plastic downpipe or other plastic piping or swimming pool noodles or bamboo canes or tape, whatever you've got, create a maze, similar to the one below.Ideally you want at least six long pieces.If you have your dog on a Mekuti harness or similar, and training lead, keep their shoulder by your leg, and very slowly and carefully walk through the maze stopping at various points.This will make both you and the dog, concentrate on foot placement and make you both more aware of your bodies and is really good for balancing yourselves.Once you have done this a number of times you can also use the poles on the labyrinth as cavaletti or stepping poles, again he should go over these slowly so that you are thinking of foot placement and balance.You could even then progress to an obstacle course with this as part of it, adding in weaving round trees or shrubs or flowerpots or bamboo canes and using some of the items from the sensory walk that I discussed last week.
Again always be mindful of your dog's current condition, and don't do anything that would risk injuring them further.If you have a ramp for your car, this can sometimes be used in the garden as part of an obstacle course.
If you think you may need to use a ramp for your dog in future, but haven't started using one yet, this could be a good opportunity to practice with them.Initially having it flat on the ground (or some dogs could use a plank of wood or scaffold board depending on size of dog and what you have available).Once it's happy to walk on it flat, you could start by increasing the incline say into the back door.All the time its confidence will build.Some ramps have a surface which is a bit like sandpaper, and certain dogs don't like the noise or feel of this.If that is the case, putting a towel or a piece of carpet on it is often the solution.
Another idea that helps again with spatial awareness, is to use the poles or pieces of timber that you used for the maze and set them up in a fan shape so they are close together at one end and further apart the other, and this can also be done on lead in a controlled manner to help with balance.
Many things can be done at no financial cost, just a matter of raiding the shed or the old kids toys.If you don't have the things, often other family members may have been having sort out and can donate their items to you as currently they can't take them to be recycled or to the council tip!They can still transfer ownership without breaking social distancing.
An idea that can be used indoors or outdoors and for dogs who are far less mobile, (even if they are paraplegic) is the baby's activity mats, with or without adaptions.These can be really good places to hide treats and the dog can find them with its nose, by hitting it with its paw or by other means.If you look on the website under news will find the Belly Rose story and you will see her using activity mats amongst other things.
Snuffle mats are also a source of entertainment, making the dog have to work to find its food again.These are readily available online, but again you can make your own.My personal preference is to use fleece material and thread it through one of the flat plastic drying mats for washing up; or to cut up one of the blue plastic vegetable containers, that many of the shops will let you have (at no cost) and again feed pieces of the fleece material through it or the ready-made version of the long haired bath mat.The reason I prefer these as opposed to most of the commercial ones, is that you can put them in the washing machine at a suitable temperature to get rid of any germs.Hanging shoe holders and samples of curtain material etc
Photo from https://www.pinterest.co.uk/annevantwestend
The key is to have an open mind, and it is surprising what you can find if you look round the house the shed in the garden that can be turned into something that will entertain your pet and possibly yourself!
Remember, it's critical to prevent them from becoming bored.Variety is the spice of life as they say, so don't just stick to 1 or 2 things, change them on a daily basis!
That should give you plenty more ideas to be going on with.I will come up with some more for you next week.Anybody who has different ideas is very welcome to share them on the new 121 bulletin board, and on facebook and can also upload a picture of their dog doing it if they like.You can also show your dog doing any of the above or your designs for recycled products.
I'm still aiming for happier pets and happier humans, using or making my "Boredom Busters" ideas!I look forward to hearing how you all get on.
Please also remember to pass this on to anyone who may find it useful and to like it on Facebook.
Jane Bannatyne CCRP, Dip. Canine Aqua Hydro, RCH, IRVAP (MT) (ICH), MCHA
121 Animal Therapy